Deadly carbon monoxide: the symptoms and precautions
Carbon monoxide is particularly dangerous as you can not see it, taste it or smell it. Not only is it difficult to detect it can kill very quickly. It is estimated in the UK 200 people per year are admitted to hospital with suspected carbon monoxide poisoning, with around 50 deaths annually. These deaths are completely avoidable with the correct maintenance and precautions.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a highly poisonous gas produced by incomplete combustion of natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas. Incomplete combustion can happen due to lack of maintenance or poor workmanship when gas appliances are installed or repaired. This is why it is so important to use Gas Safe registered engineers for any type of gas work. It can also be caused by blocked flues, chimneys and vents. Other fuels such as oil, coal, wood and petrol can also produce carbon monoxide.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can be identified by the following symptoms: headaches, nausea, dizziness, breathlessness, collapse and loss of consciousness. The symptoms of CO poisoning can be very similar to flu, viral infections and food poisoning, which is why it is common for this deadly poisoning to be mistaken for something else. If symptoms occur when you are at home, but seem to get better away from home this could point to CO poisoning. Check with other family members to see if they are also experiencing symptoms similar to yours. Carbon monoxide poisoning does not just effect humans, your pets are also at risk so make sure you keep an eye on them too.
You can reduce your risk of CO poisoning by having all gas appliances regularly maintained by a Gas Safe registered engineer. This includes safety checks and servicing. It is recommended gas appliances are checked once a year. It is a small price to pay to keep you and your family safe. Another precaution you can take is to install a carbon monoxide alarm in each room that has a gas appliance. It is also a good idea to have a CO alarm in rooms where solid fuel is burned for instance if you have a log burning stove or open fire. Like a fire alarm make sure you regularly test your carbon monoxide alarms, replacing batteries when required.
In the event you suspect a carbon monoxide leak: immediately switch off all gas appliances and ventilate the area by opening doors and windows. Contact a Gas Safe registered engineer and have your gas appliances checked for safety. If you think there is an immediate danger contact the Gas Emergency Helpline on 0800 111 999. If you are experiencing symptoms of CO poisoning visit your doctor or the hospital and tell them you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning. They will carry out tests to check.